Georgia On My Mind

[ Posted Tuesday, April 18th, 2017 – 15:49 UTC ]

I hesitate to even write this article, because by the time I post it the election results from the sixth congressional district in Georgia might already be in. Which would make all my musings moot, if you'll forgive my alliteration. But I got my taxes in a day early, so I've got nothing better to do than cheerfully speculate about politics this fine afternoon, so I'm hoping people will read this in the same lighthearted way in which it was written.

We begin with an overview. There are five special elections for House seats so far this year. One has already been decided, as a district in Kansas voted a Republican in, albeit by a much smaller margin than normal in a very red district (the Democrat only lost by 7 points, whereas they usually lose by 25-30 points here). One election is taking place in California, and will stay in Democratic hands. So far, nothing has changed in the House of Representatives makeup, in other words. Additionally, one of the remaining races is expected to stay Republican as well. This leaves two races, in Montana and Georgia, where Democrats could actually pick up seats in an upset. Today is the day Georgia is voting.

Georgia has a so-called "jungle primary," where all candidates from all parties share the same primary ballot. Only the top two in the voting will move on to a runoff election, no matter their party. But the runoff election could be avoided altogether if any candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote.

Democrat Jon Ossoff is currently leading -- by a big margin -- in the polls. However, he hasn't cracked the magic 50 percent barrier in any poll (that I've seen, at least). He regularly polls in the low-to-middle 40s. One reason why he's doing so well in a red district is that his opposition is seriously fractured. There are 11 Republicans in the race, and four or five of these seem viable enough to possibly survive to the runoff. If a runoff is necessary, Republicans will likely unite behind their candidate, meaning Ossoff's chances of winning a runoff are a lot less than him winning outright tonight.

A massive amount of money has been spent on this House district. Ossoff has raised over $8 million on his own -- which is multiple times what normal House races regularly spend. Republicans have also poured money into the race, although with the split loyalties they're mostly fighting each other. Outsiders are heavily invested in this race, from liberal precinct-walkers to President Trump's Twitter feed. But at some point voters tend to tune all this noise out, and occasionally even react in a backlash to all the outsider interest.

Much ink will be spilled (and many photons excited) by the media afterwards, explaining "what it all means" to everyone. Much of this will wind up drawing sweeping conclusions that will turn out not to be fully justified.

If Ossoff wins outright, that's going to be a big win for Democrats, no matter how meaningful it turns out to be in the grand scheme of things (in other words, in the 2018 midterms). This, after all, is Newt Gingrich's old seat -- right there, that's a powerful bit of sloganeering Democrats will be sure to use. If Ossoff is forced into a runoff with a single Republican candidate but wins anyway, that will also be of immense psychological benefit to the Democratic Party. Either of these outcomes would represent a gigantic political upset, and perhaps part of a trend of Georgia turning slowly purple.

If Ossoff wins tonight but loses the runoff to a Republican, it's going to disappoint Democrats, who will (as they did with Kansas) have to console themselves with: "It was closer than it should have been!" It won't be seen as any kind of fundamental shift in anything, though, since this district really has been reliably Republican for decades.

The only other options are so farfetched they're not even worth considering, really. Ossoff is almost guaranteed to get the most votes tonight, as his closest Republican opponent struggles to get above 20 percent in the polls -- less than half of where Ossoff is polling. So Ossoff coming in third, which would knock him out of the runoff, isn't very likely to happen.

The most likely outcome is probably Ossoff winning tonight with a vote share between 40 and 50 percent, but then eventually losing in the runoff election. But special elections can have surprises, because who knows if the polling can accurately predict turnout? The energy certainly seems to be on the Democrats' side, but that's really just anecdotal evidence until the votes are actually counted. Even if Democrats do pick up an upset win in Georgia, though, it may not be an accurate harbinger for the entire country (or even any other House district). These special House elections are notoriously bad predictors of nationwide behavior.

Only one thing seems certain at this point, and that is the voters in Georgia are going to continue to get inundated with election ads and phone calls if a runoff election is necessary. Both political parties will continue to pour tons of money into the district until the runoff happens in June. And from what I'm hearing, the voters are pretty sick of the onslaught already, so there's also a real chance of voter exhaustion setting in over the next couple of months.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


37 Comments on “Georgia On My Mind”

  1. [1] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Watching the results come in... but it's still too early to tell anything...


  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    me too. looks like it will be close.

  3. [3] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Seems to be a big delay in one county's vote-counting. Ossoff still above 50, but just barely. Most are predicting he'll fall short in the end...


  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Most have been wrong before.

  5. [5] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    nate cohn at the times is predicting it finishes at 47.7% - very respectable, but not enough to avoid a run-off.

  6. [6] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    48.3 with 88% reporting. Looks like a runoff's going to happen...


  7. [7] 
    neilm wrote:

    Well at least the runoff has saved some face for 45.

    I'm still stunned at the incompetence of the whole 45 regime and the USS Carl Vinson debacle. How on earth could the White House ramble on about “We’re sending an armada,” over a week ago, and the "armada" spent the next week sailing in the opposite direction.

    How incompetent are these clowns? And is the Pentagon deliberately undermining the 45's credibility? Pence was sent to frown at North Korea (see Andy Borowitz yet nobody thought to ask when the "armada" was going to arrive?

    This is what you get when you let the amateurs run the place. Can you imagine how HUD is doing with Carson, the DoE with Perry, etc. etc.

    What a farce.

  8. [8] 
    neilm wrote:

    Oh yes - and who was the clown in chief - Mad Dog bloody Maddis - he was meant to be one of the competent ones in the administration.

    What is going on in there? Maybe they should just let Jared run the armed services as well as his other tasks - bringing peace to Palestine, revamping the Federal Government, criminal justice reform, liaison to Mexico, liaison to China, liaison to the Muslim community, run the family business, keep Ivanka happy, and, of course, take plenty of skiing vacations on the taxpayer's dime.

    I mean, c'mon Jared, get your ass in gear - can't you see how lazy you're being in comparison with daddy-in-law who has vital decisions to make - the 3 or 4 iron on the par three at Maro Lago? Steak well done or a Big Mac? Armada going or coming?

  9. [9] 
    neilm wrote:

    45 is destroying the economy, failing to protect U.S. jobs, and putting more of our soldiers in danger with no strategic plan.

    Auto sales are plummeting.

    Interest rates have doubled.

    Trade deficit with Mexico up 15% y/y.

    U.S. casualties in middle east have doubled.

    And divots on golf courses are at an all time high in Florida.

  10. [10] 
    TheStig wrote:

    A Southern jungle primary really ought to be termed a "Kudzu Primary."

  11. [11] 
    neilm wrote:
  12. [12] 
    Kick wrote:

    Jason Chaffetz announces he will not run for reelection.

    And down goes Jason. Methinks he's in trouble with the FBI. :)

  13. [13] 
    TheStig wrote:


    JC also faced some withering criticism at recent town hall meetings. He seems less than popular.

  14. [14] 
    TheStig wrote:

    I notice that Bill O'Reilly had a VIP meet and greet with Pope Francis. All I can say is "Holy Father lock your nuns away!" Mostly for O'Reilly's safety, if Bill couldn't control himself. Nuns know how to swing a mean ruler! Years after Catholic school my wife said she could take accurate measurements from the tick marks embedded in the tops of both hands. CW - does your wife have the same feature? :)

    I always wondered just what "The O'Reilly Factor" really was. Turns out - it was just sleaze! I should have suspected given the quality of his books.

  15. [15] 
    Kick wrote:

    Exxon Seeks U.S. Waiver to Resume Russia Oil Venture

    Exxon Mobil applied to Treasury for exemption to resume venture with Rosneft forged in 2012 by Rex Tillerson

    By Jay Solomon and Bradley Olson
    Updated April 19, 2017 1:51 p.m. ET

    WASHINGTON— Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM -0.66% has applied to the Treasury Department for a waiver from U.S. sanctions on Russia in a bid to resume its joint venture with state oil giant PAO Rosneft, according to people familiar with the matter.

    Exxon has been seeking U.S. permission to drill with Rosneft in several areas banned by sanctions and applied in recent months for a waiver to proceed in the Black Sea, according to these people.

    The Black Sea request is likely to be closely scrutinized by members of Congress who are seeking to intensify sanctions on Russia in response to what the U.S. said was its use of cyberattacks to interfere with elections last year. Congress has also launched an investigation into whether there were ties between aides to Donald Trump and Russia’s government during the presidential campaign and the political transition.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is Exxon’s former chief executive officer and in that role forged a close working relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and with Rosneft, a company that is critical to Russia’s oil-reliant economy.

    The State Department is among the U.S. government agencies that have a say on Exxon’s waiver application, according to current and former U.S. officials.

    Mr. Tillerson is recusing himself from any matters involving Exxon for two years, and won’t be involved with any decision made by any government agency involving Exxon during this period, a State Department spokesman said.

    It isn’t clear whether the request with the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control was made before Mr. Tillerson joined the Trump administration. A spokesman for the Treasury Department said it doesn’t comment on waiver applications. An Exxon spokesman said the company wouldn’t discuss government deliberations on sanctions.

    The sanctions target operations with Rosneft involving the transfer of technology, banning U.S. companies from deals in the Arctic, Siberia and the Black Sea, areas that would require the sharing of cutting-edge drilling techniques. The sanctions, instituted after Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine in 2014, also bar dealings with Rosneft’s chief executive, Igor Sechin, saying he “has shown utter loyalty to Vladimir Putin—a key component to his current standing.”

    Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia’s oil resources have been among the most sought-after prizes by U.S. and European oil companies, and multiple U.S. presidential administrations in both parties have worked to help them enter the country. As much as 100 billion barrels of oil is believed to remain untapped in the country, although many Western companies have been stymied in their attempts to reach those reserves, often by geopolitical risks.

    The 2014 sanctions effectively sidelined a landmark exploration deal Exxon, under Mr. Tillerson’s leadership, had signed with Rosneft in 2012. The deal granted Exxon access to explore in Russia’s Arctic waters, the right to drill with new technology in Siberia and the chance to explore in the deep waters of Russia’s portion of the Black Sea.

    Mr. Putin said Exxon and Rosneft might invest as much as $500 billion over the life of the partnership. In 2013, the Russian leader bestowed upon Mr. Tillerson the country’s Order of Friendship in part for his role in developing the joint venture.

    Exxon has reported it is exposed to losses from the Rosneft ventures of up to $1 billion before taxes, although the company has yet to recognize them on its books given its position that sanctions could be lifted.

    I'm shocked, I tell you... shocked! /sarcasm off

  16. [16] 
    Kick wrote:

    TS [14]

    JC also faced some withering criticism at recent town hall meetings. He seems less than popular.

    He lives in the reddest state in the country, TS, and he had absolutely nothing to worry about regarding reelection. There's another reason he's not running. :)

  17. [17] 
    altohone wrote:

    Got some catch up to do... sorry for the off topic delayed responses.

    44 from No Trump tax returns

    Your lies about WikiLeaks may make you feel better, but the reality is quite different.

    I'd ask you for cites, but I know you'll come up empty and just ignore my request out of necessity yet again.


  18. [18] 
    altohone wrote:

    comment 10 from Trump rushes to set record

    I first came across Postol when his analysis about the 2013 chemical attack in Syria contradicted the claims of Obama and his gang, as cited by Sy Hersh at the time.

    I asked people to mull it over because I'm not sure about his claims. He seems to have solid credentials though, and I think his claims are worthy of discussion.

    I still don't trust Trump's judgment or the claims made by al Qaida "rebels"... for some unknowable reason.


  19. [19] 
    altohone wrote:

    Liz and TS

    regarding the series of comments through 23 in FTP

    There is zero chance that a Western oriented liberal faction of Sunni Syrians will take power in Syria if Assad falls.

    If you're interested, I believe I posted a link to an interview from The Intercept with a leading "liberal" Sunni Syrian activist, and I will dig it up and report it if you ask.

    Spoiler alert-
    He not only welcomed foreign al Qaida forces into Syria but also ISIS, and considers both preferable to Assad.
    (in case you don't remember, I strongly disagree)

    I would also point out that when you (Liz) talk about hopeless Syrian "victims", their welcoming of the help of US enemies, and in many cases joining the battle with those enemies should make you pause and reconsider.

    Also, when eastern Aleppo fell to Assad's forces, the civilian population was given a choice of where to go... and about 60% chose to go into territory held by the government, 40% chose to go into "rebel" territory... despite Assad's methods.
    Assad remains the preferred choice for not just Shiite Alawites, but also many Sunnis, and most Christian Syrians, Sufi Syrians and all the smaller minorities that would be and have been targeted by militant Sunnis wherever they gained control.

    I believe you have some expertise on the issue... I was hoping to see a response from you about the analysis on the chemical attack from Postol.
    I will repost it if needed.

    Actually, I am disappointed that neil was the only one to respond... even though his response was good.


  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    You missed my point, completely.

  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I would also point out that when you (Liz) talk about hopeless Syrian "victims", their welcoming of the help of US enemies, and in many cases joining the battle with those enemies should make you pause and reconsider.

    For the record, I never talked about hopeless Syrian "victims", as YOU put it.

    In future, please don't misquote me. Instead, pause and reconsider what I actually wrote.

  22. [22] 
    altohone wrote:


    Sorry... mistake from jumping forward to respond.
    The quotes should have been around "hopeless".

    Anyway... I paused.
    I reconsidered.
    But I'm still not getting a different point.

    Am I in the penalty box for misquoting you?
    Or are you willing to elaborate?


  23. [23] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Try re-reading the entire portion of the thread that is pertinent.

    And, I never said 'hopless', either.

  24. [24] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Try re-reading the entire portion of the thread that is pertinent.

    And, I never said 'hopeless', either.

  25. [25] 
    altohone wrote:


    I wasn't intentionally misrepresenting what you wrote. I wasn't trying to make you look bad, and I don't think my misquotes did so. This is not a case of malicious intent or outcome.
    I understand your anger at being misquoted though, and I am sorry.

    But I am still not getting your point about Syria after reading the entire thread again.

    I do agree that the Global War On Terror is clearly failing in the hearts and minds category (and overall given the CIA figures show there are somewhere between 10 and 20 times MORE Islamist terrorists in the world than on the day the GWOT was launched)...

    ... but Assad is fighting al Qaida and ISIS, so our regime change efforts in Syria aren't part of the GWOT, and are actually helping the terrorists.

    I may disagree with you in the end, but I am just trying to understand what you are trying to say.
    Can you forgive my errors and help me out?


  26. [26] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I know it wasn't intentional, Al ... just a sign of laziness on your part. :)

    I thought I made myself clear. My point was a simple one with general application to the GWOT - military action alone (or primarily) will only make the situation worse.

    On that, I believe we agree ...

  27. [27] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    In other words, America will only win this war when it leads by the power of its example and not just by the example of its power.

    America has a choice to make - global domination or global leadership.

    President Trump understands none of this.

  28. [28] 
    TheStig wrote:



    I believe you have some expertise on the issue... I was hoping to see a response from you about the analysis on the chemical attack from Postol."

    I have read Postol's report. He concludes the toxic agent was Sarin gas, so we can skip that controversy, he is in the mainstream on that particular.

    Most of his report focuses on the delivery device, which he concludes was improvised from a 122mm rocket casing. The rest of his case assumes that since the device was improvised, it was not dropped/launched by the Syrian Government's Air Force.

    I find that assumption deeply flawed. The Syrian Air Force is doing a lot of improvising. The well known "barrel bombs" are in point of fact crude (but fairly effective) IEDs used as block busters dropped from an improvised delivery system (helicopters). The Syrian government military is a fragmented wreck.

    Under a brokered agreement, the Syrians and Russians dismantled the Syrian chemical weapons program. The degree of completeness of that effort is unclear, but it's not unreasonable to believe that purpose built Sarin Delivery Devices and the complex infrastructure to use them are scarce and therefore valuable. You do not use a valuable commodity on a minor target when a less valuable asset will do, especially if employing the cheap asset gives you a modicum of deniability.

    A bomb is a pipe with add-ons. A jury rigged 122mm rocket seems a logical place to start. The explosive device used to disperse the nerve agent would likely be crude too. I would not want to be a member of the ground crew preparing and loading said device, nor the pilot delivering it. That said, military personnel are expected to take extreme risks in wartime. If you think about it, the two atomic bombs the United States dropped on Japan were expensive and complicated IEDs, with final assembly taking place in the bomb bay of an flight B-29.

    Postol's analysis of the plume seems minor supporting evidence that a crude device would work.
    He doesn't specify his plume models, but his figures look like Department of Defense figures I saw back in the 90's. As to who delivered the gas, this part of the analysis seems almost entirely irrelevant.

    Postol does not address the plausibility of engineering a false flag attack. How do you get a large chunk of pipe bomb onto a road in an urban area without people noticing? How do know what village to put in so as to coincide with a future air attack? I don't see how you can just leave the device in the road and wait patiently. I don't say the false flag hypothesis is impossible, but I do think it's an inherently complex operation. This is where Occam's Razor kicks in: when two hypotheses both fit your data, the simpler hypothesis is the more likely to be correct.

    A final thought. The information about the chemical attack is sketchy and perishable. Policy has to be made and applied on a timely basis of sketchy info. Experts will disagree - something is very wrong if everybody is in lock step. The sensible thing to do is go with the totality of evidence, knowing full well you may be wrong. You play the odds because it's the only game in town.

  29. [29] 
    altohone wrote:


    Thanks for the response.

    So, what do you think about an improvised device exploding on contact with the ground, creating a crater as pictured with the tube underneath?

    On a different issue I haven't mentioned, a British expert on BBC noted that you can't actually see bombs falling from a plane when you're on the ground.
    Is that true?

    As for the possibility of a false flag attack in an area being bombed regularly, since the timing of the events is based on claims made by al Qaida in territory they control, by witnesses they chose, that is not the type of "evidence" we should be relying on... in my opinion.


  30. [30] 
    TheStig wrote:


    I am not an explosives expert. The charring around the crater seems to indicate a small explosion big enough to crack the case. It seems to me small is all you need or want. I don't see any physical evidence of a big explosive charge shown as a drawing in fig.4.

    I've never been bombed, but I'm pretty sure "it depends" is a good answer. Given the likely Syrian aircraft involved, the attack was probably low and slow (for sake of accuracy and not burying the bomb too deep) but to anybody watching, it would seem fast as they try and duck and cover.

    In assessing the practicality of a false flag attack, try and envision all the things you need to do to ensure a viable mission. When I follow that procedure, I get a lot of steps. When a plan has a lot of steps it is inherently complicated and something is likely to go wrong. One of the things likely to wrong is secrecy.

  31. [31] 
    altohone wrote:


    OK. I'm obviously not an expert either or I wouldn't have asked. But picturing an improvised device, it just seems like it would be an unusual way for something dropped from a plane to land.

    I'm not seeing much accuracy relevant to a useful military target, but the witness claims contradicting what that expert said seemed odd to me.
    Sort of like a Hollywood version of events.

    On the last part, placing the tube on the ground, putting explosives on top and running away doesn't seem very complicated to me when you have control of the area. In the 2013 chemical attack, they launched rockets filled with Sarin into populated areas, and that seems vastly more complicated and more difficult to do secretly.

    And rigging something to be dropped from a plane seems more complicated too, but we can agree to disagree.
    Do you know if there would have been attachment hardware in the debris?

    And, btw, I appreciate your civility despite being on the other side of the fence... or leaning that way, or whatever.


  32. [32] 
    TheStig wrote:


    "In the 2013 chemical attack, they launched rockets filled with Sarin into populated areas..."

    Who are you referring to as "they?" The Assad Gov. or one or more of the opposition? Are you saying that Ghouta was an opposition false flag operation?

  33. [33] 
    altohone wrote:


    Al Qaida.
    I provided numerous links about that attack last week... the Seymour Hersh article, the UN investigator publicly blaming the "rebels", the article about the Turkish prosecution of Syrian "rebels" with Sarin precursors... neil posted the article from The Atlantic.

    Supposedly, Obama called off his planned attack due to concerns raised by Clapper about who was responsible.

    Postol's analysis of that attack is why he was sought out for an analysis of the recent chemical attack.


  34. [34] 
    TheStig wrote:


    Just wanted to clarify that.

    The Ghouta incident is complicated, and there is evidence that both sides tampered with the evidence.

    On the basis of means, motivation and opportunity, I think the case against the Syrian government is much stronger than that against the opposition.

    Both the Syrian government and the rebel factions had motives, but the government had much more in the way of means and opportunity.

    Both sides of the dispute can construct plausible scenarios to support their position, but the Syrian/Russian scenario seems much less plausible. Too many moving parts!

    Assad's government had a fully functional, Soviet style chemical warfare capability: trained personal, purpose built delivery systems (including rockets) and literally tons of Sarin...with the ability to make more.

    The opposition might have captured some of this, but capturing enough stuff, or improvising enough strains credibility. There is good reason to believe both sides doctored the evidence, so we will probably never be sure of the details. Another factor working in favor of the Syrian/Russian camp was the still fresh in memory of US/British intel. failure (or faking, take yer pick) regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

    Syria and Russian can construct a Rube Goldberg defense that might actually hold up in court, but Occam's razor puts me in the prosecutor's corner.

  35. [35] 
    altohone wrote:


    "Intelligence failure" has been conclusively debunked on Iraq.
    Fabrication most assuredly occurred.

    If Syria had "purpose built delivery systems" why the rigged devices?

    If Turkey prosecuted al Qaida "rebels" with Sarin precursors, why the "strained credibility"?
    Why the doubts by our intelligence?

    I can understand the motivation argument for doubts about the 2013 attack, but the same argument works strongly against al Qaida for the recent attack. Assad only stood to lose.

    Thanks again for your comments.


  36. [36] 
    TheStig wrote:


    If Syria had "purpose built delivery systems" why the rigged devices?

    There are at least 2 "whys". First, any remaining undeclared remnants of Syria's old Soviet era chemical arsenal would be a valuable strategic asset (THINK ISRAEL), not to be used lightly. Second, since Syria has acceded to (but not signed) the Chemical Weapons Convention, Syria has a powerful false flag motive if it decides it wants to cheat and do a wee bit of chemical terror.

    I don't doubt that al Qaida has dabbled with sarin. Other terrorist groups have done that. Turkey found precursors, not a weapon. Weaponizing sarin, so that it works out in the open, is a complicated process. The Syrian government's means (knowledge, training, experience and industrial facilities) are much greater than the rebel means.

  37. [37] 
    altohone wrote:


    I don't see a powerful false flag motive for Assad.
    The "rebels" have been losing ground steadily against Assad's conventional arms.
    And the narrative in the media for six years has been a presumption of guilt against Assad every time chemical weapons were suspected or used... I don't see how Assad could effectively spin a false flag attack under these circumstances.

    "The Syrian government's means (knowledge, training, experience and industrial facilities) are much greater than the rebel means."

    Well, other than industrial facilities, both al Qaida and ISIS have members from the regimes of both Saddam and Assad with knowledge, training and experience.

    The official line from the UN chemical weapons group is currently "Sarin or Sarin like substance" based on the chemical traces in the blood tests of the victims.

    I don't know enough to judge, but Scott Ritter mentioned the "low-grade Sarin" possibility, and I have no idea if "Sarin-like substances" are as difficult to make. I can't find any journalists delving into those questions.

    I have seen experts note that advanced chemical analysis could help determine the source of the Sarin... comparing what was found against samples from the US, Libyan, Iraqi and Syrian sources. Supposedly there are slight chemical differences that can point to the origin.
    But again, I haven't seen any journalism reporting on that aspect either.

    I feel like I'm repeating myself here, but I'll leave it to you if we should continue.


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